Lantana plant safe for toddlers

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - There is no need to worry if your toddler has eaten berries or leaves from Lantana camara, a plant found in flower beds across the southern U.S. and other balmy parts of the world.

That’s the conclusion from a review of the California Poison Control System database, published in the journal Pediatrics.

“From our personal experience, it didn’t seem very toxic and, lo and behold, our study proved our theory,” Lee Cantrell, a pharmacist with the California Poison Control System in San Diego, told Reuters Health.

He said parents often worried and called the center when their toddlers had eaten some of the plant accidentally.

A tropical shrub with variously colored flowers, Lantana camara is also known as West Indian Lantana or just Lantana.

It is toxic to cattle, which might end up downing a lot of it when grazing. Its effects on humans haven’t been studied, but one 1964 report on 17 children suggested it could be harmful for us, too.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case, according to the California researchers.

Searching the California Poison Control System database for the period between 1997 and 2009, they found 641 cases of kids who’d eaten the plant, most often its berries. There were no reports of severe effects, and fewer than one in 10 kids experienced mild symptoms such as vomiting and, less commonly, stomachache or diarrhea.

There was no clear difference in symptoms caused by eating the ripe or unripe berries or other parts of the plant.

So if a child accidentally chews a bit of Lantana and has mild or no symptoms, there is no need to see a doctor or get treatment, said Cantrell. Just wipe the kid’s mouth clean and keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t get worse.

He suggested other poison control centers should change their guidelines to reflect this advice.

Cantrell’s co-author, Dr. Shaun Carstairs of the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, could not get clearance from the U.S. Navy to talk about his findings before this story’s deadline.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, online November 1, 2010.